Another Lawmaker Aims to Restart Border Construction
Congressman Clay Higgins, a republican from Louisiana and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, has recently introduced legislation to resume construction of the border wall system.
The Finish the Wall Act is reported to have more than 60 cosponsors and is one of the House Republicans’ five pillars to address what they deem the President Joe Biden border crisis.
Border Wall Saga
In September 2017, the first border wall contracts were awarded to four different companies to develop prototypes that would work in conjunction with the border in the San Diego area. At the time, U.S. special forces spent weeks attempting to breach the eight prototype models of the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which proved to withstand jackhammers, torches and climbing tools.
From that point on, the government worked to speed up the project. In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that any environmental regulations regarding the construction or repair of a section of the border wall for certain areas in Texas would be waived, drawing ire from environmentalists and private property owners alike. The announcement detailed exemptions in Cameron County; another announcement made the following day detailed similar measures for Hidalgo County.
Through the course of late 2018 and into 2019, construction began on section of border wall gates in the Rio Grande Valley sector, with several million in border wall contracts being awarded for work elsewhere.
However, at the beginning of 2019, reports revealed that all eight border wall prototypes were susceptible to breaching. According to NBC News, testing conducted by the Department of Homeland Security showed that all prototypes, including the steel slat design, were vulnerable to damage from easily accessible tools. For example, the steel slat prototype could be cut through with a saw.
In mid-2019, a judge blocked the president’s use of money originally intended for military funding, for work on the border wall. The injunction only accounted for roughly $1 billion in funding for the border wall, money that the Department of Defense had funneled away from Army personnel to the Department of Homeland Security.
Over the course of the rest of the year and into 2020, the border wall would experience a back and forth of funds either approved from canceled military projects or additional blockages.
In October of last year, United States Customs and Border Protection officials reported that the Trump administration was considering having more than 80 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border wall located in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo, Texas, painted black.
Agency officials told CNN an epoxy coating is being considered for when future barriers are built and could cost the project an extra $1 million per mile.
One of the last decisions to take place came in December, when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the Trump administration’s plan in a 2-1 decision to divert $3.6 billion in funding from more than 100 military construction projects for border wall construction.
According to Customs and Border Control, at the beginning of the year, 281 miles of border wall in Texas were reported to have been completed, under construction or in preconstruction.
Following his inauguration, President Biden signed an executive order on January 20, bringing an immediate halt to construction on the border wall.
Finish the Wall Act
According to a report by Bloomberg, last month, roughly 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border—more than the nation has seen in two decades.
Regarding his legislative plan, Higgins stated, “Through executive decree, President Biden halted work on the border wall system, created large security gaps, ended thousands of construction jobs, violated signed contracts, and left behind huge stockpiles of high-quality steel stacked on private land and unused.
“Biden’s executive action to stop wall system construction, his reversal of deterrent-focused Trump policies, and his endless public statements in 2020 about open borders and easy illegal entry and transforming America into a sanctuary nation are directly responsible for the border crisis, which has indeed become a serious threat to our Republic. The Biden administration cannot continue its policy of weakness. America demands effective border security. Completing the new wall system is critical to that mission, and House Republicans are offering real solutions.”
Main points of the bill include:
The bill also plans to reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy, maintain Title 42 authority and equire a negative COVID test before releasing migrants.
However, according to reports, the legislation is noted to contradict border wall elements in the $1.5 trillion discretionary funding request Biden sent to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee last month. Although the White House did not ask for any new border wall construction funding and wants any unobligated border wall money to be canceled, it did request $1.2 billion for technology and other non-construction projects at the border.
Some members of Congress have pushed back against the policy, requesting that U.S. Government Accountability Office Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro to provide a legal opinion as to whether Biden violated the Impoundment Control Act by pausing construction.
From 2018-21, Congress was reported to have allocated $1.4 billion for wall projects, including repair and replacement.
In March, Republican Texas House Representative Bryan Slaton also presented legislation regarding the relaunch of construction on the U.S-Mexico border wall and other border security enhancement projects within the state.
The House Bill No. 2862 claims that it would create a fund to pay for the projects—including planning, designing, constructing and maintaining transportation and water infrastructure along the Texas portion of the border wall—and would allocate the earnings on the balance of the fund and reimbursement of related expenditures.
H.B. 2862 also intends to pay for technology and commercial vehicle inspection facilities along ports of entry and prohibits the clearing of indigenous plants, unless overridden by certain state or federal authorities.
According to the legislation, contractors incorporated in Texas or who maintain its headquarters or principal office within the state would be given priority in awarding contracts. In addition, the proposed bill stipulates that the governor of Texas would seek reimbursement from the federal government for amounts spent from border wall project funds.
However, if passed, reports indicate that the legislation could struggle with receiving those reimbursements following President Joe Biden’s pause on border wall construction following his inauguration.